Santa Claws by Lilachigh

Chapter 15 Their blood...my blood...

As the Sylvamalkyn demon raised her head and snarled at Buffy and Spike, fangs gleaming, the razor sharp claws glistening, the branches above their heads rustled violently.

"Bloody hell, there's a whole pack of 'em!" Spike yelled, swinging round so his back was tight against Buffy's, protecting her in a movement that was so natural he never even thought about it.

He was right: even as he spoke, the air was full of swooping bodies, flying down from the trees, arms and faces covered in golden pelt, teeth gleaming points, eyes feral and wild. They formed a circle and advanced towards Buffy and Spike, growling, flexing three inch long claws from each hand. Although the faces were human in shape, both male and female, there was no humanity in their eyes - just the desire to feed, to tear flesh from their victims bones and eat and eat and eat...

"Too many for us, pet. Need to get out of here - fast."

"But - " Buffy feinted forward with her stake as one of the demons made a rush towards her. "We need to talk to them, Spike. To the one who shouted at us. She knows something about the infection."

The vampire shook his head. Sometimes his lover had as much common-sense as Xander Harris! You could talk to one demon - usually with a weapon held against him - but not a blood-thirsty crowd who obviously didn't care about dying.

"I'm sure you're right, Slayer. But not now!" He wrapped an arm round her waist and leapt for the crypt roof. Like lightning, a Sylvamalkyn jumped towards him and he felt teeth grip his boot, pulling him backwards, off balance. Then somehow Buffy was kicking down violently towards the creature's head and face, then with a howl and a shower of broken fangs, he fell back towards his friends and Spike was racing with Buffy at his side through the graveyard. As he reached the outer fence, he swerved behind an enormous tombstone, pushed the slab to one side and jumped down into the dark beneath. He held out his hands and Buffy leapt into his arms, aware of his wicked grin as he gave her a fleeting kiss and then reached up to pull the slab back across the entrance.

Spike strode along the dark tunnel, as sure-footed as a cat, Buffy's hand tight on his shoulder, trusting him not to lead her down a bottomless pit or a muddy sewer.

Within a few hundred yards, he turned left and pulled open the door into the lower chamber of his crypt.

He slammed it shut behind them and clambered up the ladder into the top room. Buffy waited impatiently as he lit candles, the flames making little yellow oases in the dark. She pressed her ear against the main door: she could still hear growling - the Sylvamalkyns were still there.

"What's wrong with you? Why did we run away?" she snapped.

"Too many of them, pet. We didn't run away, we retreated."

"I didn't notice the difference! Spike, listen, we needed to talk to that woman - the first one we saw - just before she attacked, she said something about it not working - transferring the Sylvamalkyn demon into a new vamp. How would she know that?"

"No idea, Slayer. But it'll be far easier to talk to her if she's on her own and not part of a blood-thirsty mob who would cheerfully tear us limb from limb." He gazed at the stubbornly angry look on her face and grinned. "It's no good sulking, pet, just because I spoiled your little fight. Believe me, we were outnumbered and I don't say that lightly."

Buffy eased away from the door and flung herself into Spike's favourite chair. "I'm not sulking. OK, OK, I suppose I'm not used to you being all Mr Sensible Guy."

Spike poured himself a cup of cold blood and raised an eyebrow. "Hey, haven't stayed dead this long by taking stupid risks. OK, perhaps I did when I first knew you but things are different now."

Buffy looked up sharply. "You mean because you're half demon or because we're together? But that shouldn't - mustn't - change who we are, what we do. We could have taken those Sylva thingies outside. Might not have been pretty, but we could have done it."

Spike sipped his blood slowly. He knew that logically she was right; when they fought in tandem they were almost unbeatable. But just now, surrounded by killers, he'd immediately thought of her safety, his instinct had been to protect, not fight. It made his head hurt because he knew she was right - nothing good would come from trying to change who they were - vampire and Slayer.

"Unless - Spike, tell me - did you feel you couldn't kill them because you've got the same demon in your blood, because you're part Sylva?"

The cup of blood crashed against the stone wall and Spike vamped out and back. "Bloody hell, Slayer, is that what you're thinking? You believe I'd put you in danger because of a sodding infection? Great! Thanks a lot. Nice to know how much trust you have in me."

Buffy leapt out of the chair to face him. "It's nothing to do with trusting you. l love you, you stupid vamp. And I wouldn't blame you. We don't know what all the effects of being infected might be."

"Bloody hell - someone give me strength! That's exactly why I wanted to leave Sunnydale in the first place! But you were dead against that - we could fight it together, you said, find a way, you said - sounds like you're now beginning to see what was blindingly obvious to me right from the very start. Let me spell it out in little words - When the moon changes again, I Will Become Very Dangerous! So what do we do now? Or rather, what do you want to do now?"

Silence flared between them - so tense, so thick, it hung in the air like an invisible curtain. It needed to be broken, torn down, destroyed, but they both hesitated - somehow they both knew this wasn't just about the demon infection or even Spike being over-protective. No, this was deeper - Spike had to be certain this amazing relationship that seemed so real, was based on genuine feelins and he waited, desperate to be convinced. Buffy was unaware that in the deepest recesses of her mind, there lurked a coiled worm of doubt, fed by all the men in her life who'd left her, men who'd never been able to cope with her being the Slayer. Was Spike really putting her safety first or was it just an excuse to get out of Sunnydale, away from her, away from the complications of their relationship?

"You've always been dangerous." Her voice was thin, just above a whisper and he could see the blank Slayer face wipe away the emotion that had been shining out of her eyes.

Spike sighed. "Listen, pet - " he began, then froze.

"What's up?"

His hand swung up to silence her and she bit back the words, watching him vamp out, relying on the instinctive trust she had in him where danger was concerned.

"I can't hear the Sylvamalkyns any more," he said softly at last.

Buffy frowned, puzzled. "So, that's good, isn't it? They've wandered off back into the trees. OK, not so good because now we've got the bother of tracking them down to find out what that one female knows about vampires and infection, but hey at least they're not outside and - "

Spike shook his head. "Not that sort of silence. They're still there - I can sense them - don't forget their blood is in my veins, too, Slayer - but they're too quiet. As if they're laying in wait for something, or someone!"

Buffy leant her head against the crypt door but knew her hearing was very second-rate compared to that of a vampire. Then, suddenly, a scream sounded outside, long and piercing and scared. "Buffffffyyyyyyy!" It drilled through her skull and in the split second before Spike was at her side, throwing open the crypt door and racing outside in full vamp face, she knew.

Dawn!

And there she was, backed up against a tombstone, surrounded by panther demons, and in the split second it took for her to cover the ground, Buffy felt a surge of ridiculous pride because her sister was not cowering or crying. She was trying to defend herself with a large stick and must have known that it would be of no use whatsover once she was attacked.

The demons turned, enraged, thwarted from an easy meal as Slayer and vampire threw themselves into the fray. The world turned into a growling frenzy, the starlight glittering down on flying fur, blood lancing through the air, the screams of injured demons, the crack of Spike's boots on bone and flesh.

"Dawn! Head for the crypt. Get inside. Lock the door!" Buffy yelled, but her sister ignored her and thumped her stick across a Sylva's shoulders, who turned and roared as it broke in half, the splinters drawing blood from his golden pelt.

Then Spike was there - lifting the creature into the air and tossing him yards away to crash into a tombstone. Buffy spun in a circle, stake jabbing out and the pack of demons hesitated then began to back away, leaping for the tree branches.

"No you don't! Gotcha!"

Spike flung out a hand and dragged the female Sylvamalkyn down from the branch just above his head - where she'd been standing when they first saw her. "My girl wants to talk to you."

"Dawn! Are you OK?"

The teenager wiped a drop of blood from her cut cheek. "I'm fine, Buffy. I'm sorry. I didn't know they were here. I knew you and Spike would have been patrolling. I thought the cemetery was clear."

"No harm done," Spike said swiftly before Buffy could lose her temper. "In fact, you've done us a favour, Niblet. We needed to talk to this one and it could have taken us ages to find her again."

He pulled the Sylvamalkyn's head back, fighting to hold her still as she struggled and growled, trying to escape. "Need a bit of help here, Slayer," he muttered under his breath and then suddenly, something leapt out of the tree above his head and clung to his back, yelling. His grasp on the demon slackened and before Buffy could move, the Sylva had bound away into the night.

"What the - " Spike swore viciously and reached behind him to detach the small body that was wrapped around his shoulders, hitting his head with small clenched fists. "Eric!"

Buffy pulled the little boy away and stared down at him as he fought to escape her grasp. "Hey, what the heck!"

"You leave her alone!" Eric looked nothing like the little boy who'd gone with them to the alternate Santa Claus world. Now he was all Sylvamalkyn cub, his eyes silver, the panther pelt glistening in the starlight. "I won't let you hurt her. I won't! I won't let you kill my mom!"

tbc